Netherlands: Ph.D. Student in Ethics of Robotics

University of TwenteOne of departments of the Faculty is the Department of Philosophy, which specializes in research in philosophy of technology.The Department is also embedded in the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology, an international 3TU Centre of Excellence of the three philosophy departments of the technical universities in the Netherlands. The Department of Philosophy is looking for a Ph.D. Student (fulltime) in Ethics of Robotics, with a focus on Robot-Enhanced Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Job Specification: This PhD position is funded by the European FP7 project “Development of Robot-Enhanced therapy for children with AutisM spectrum disorders” (acronym: DREAM). This exciting interdisciplinary, large-scale project, involving 7 European partners from Sweden, Belgium, Romania, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France, will develop next-generation robots that mediate between therapists and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in autism therapy. In this Robot-Enhanced Therapy (RET), the robots will be able to interact with the child autonomously for limited periods under the supervision of a therapist (“supervised autonomy”).

The use of robots in therapeutic contexts raises several ethical issues, such as the degree of autonomy to be given to the robot and the question if parents are happy to leave their child ‘in the hands of the robot’. The “Ethics” work package (WP) will address these ethical issues by making sure that all relevant known ethical constraints and existing laws applicable are implemented in the design process, by examining specific ethical questions raised by the interaction between child and autonomous therapeutic robots, and by investigating if and how we can build in ethical constraints into the meta-cognition level of the robot. In addition, through close collaboration between the technical and ethical researchers and the ASD practitioners, the project will determine how to achieve the maximum impact of RET through effective integration of technology with clinical therapy practices in general.

Research leader of the “Ethics” work package is Dr. Mark Coeckelbergh, who will act as the daily supervisor of the Ph.D. project. The research leader and the Ph.D. candidate will collaborate very closely with partners from all over Europe who have different backgrounds, such as engineering and psychology.

Your Profile: A Master’s degree or equivalent degree in philosophy (preferably but not exclusively in ethics) and the proven ability and willingness to engage in interdisciplinary research. Consideration will also be given to outstanding candidates with a social sciences or multidisciplinary Master’s degree on a topic relevant to the project, provided the candidate has some background and experience in ethics. Demonstrable interest in philosophical issues relating to human-robot interaction. Highly motivated to become part of an international team of researchers and to contribute to the success of the DREAM project. Good analytical skills. Good organizational skills. Good communication skills in English, in writing as well as orally. Creativity, open-mindedness, and ability to develop new ideas.

Information and Application: For information you can contact the research leader of the “Ethics” work package, dr. M.J.K. Coeckelbergh (e-mail:

Your application should contain the following documents: a letter of application which explains your motivation and interest in the position at some length and explains your qualifications (this letter should contain some suggestions on how you would want to approach this Ph.D. project); a Curriculum Vitae which includes the names and e-mail address/telephone number of at least two academic references; a copy of your master’s thesis; copies of publications, if any.

Your application should be uploaded no later than October 31, 2013 to Since this website only accepts three documents per application, please combine the last ones into one document. Job interviews will be held in November. 

Our Offer: We offer you a four-year full-time Ph.D. Position, starting in 2014 (the exact starting date will be communicated during the interview) and at the end you should have completed your PhD thesis. The gross salary is € 2.083,- per month in the first year going up to €2.664,- in the fourth year. Additionally, the University of Twente provides excellent facilities for professional and personal development, a holiday allowance (amounts to 8%), an end-of-year bonus (amounts to 8,3%) and a number of additional benefits. The position also comes with a travel budget.

The Organisation: Within the University of Twente, the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, which houses the department of philosophy, offers the following Bachelor programmes: Educational Science (OWK), Communication Studies (CW) and Psychology (PSY), and the following Master programmes: Educational Science and Technology (EST), Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society (PSTS), Communication Studies (CS), Psychology (PSY) and two Masters for Teachers.

Most of the faculty’s research is carried out within the Institute for Governance Studies (IGS) and focuses on the themes Health and Safety, Labor and Organization, Knowledge and Education and Communication and Media. Furthermore research is carried out within the Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine (MIRA), The institute for nanotechnology (MESA+) and the Institute for Information and Communication Technology (CTIT).

Application Deadline: 31 October 2013